Two people showing symptoms of the bird flu virus have died in the past week in Vietnam, where the disease has already killed more than 40 people, a hospital official said yesterday.
"It's very, very clear that all the critical symptoms pointed to bird flu," said Nguyen Ngoc Tai, the director of the Vietnam-Cuba Hospital in Dong Hoi, central Vietnam.
The Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper quoted a report from the hospital in Quang Binh province as saying the victims, a 14-year-old girl and a 26-year-old man, had eaten duck and a chicken's egg around a week before they got sick.
The girl was admitted to hospital on Oct. 21 and died on Oct. 23 and the man died on Oct. 26 within an hour of arriving at the hospital. Their bodies had been sent home to be buried, Tai said.
He said the victims were not related and from different towns in the province, which is around 500km south of the capital Hanoi.
Tuoi Tre newspaper quoted doctors at the hospital as saying they both had severe respiratory problems, fever and lung infection -- symptoms similar to bird flu.
Tai said a third person with symptoms of the disease had been sent to a better-equipped hospital in Hue City, central Vietnam, for treatment.
"There is another case of a 27-year-old man who is suspected to have been infected with bird flu but in a milder form," Tai said.
He said his hospital was ill-equipped to treat bird flu patients and called for immediate supplies of the antiviral drug Tamiflu and flu vaccines to cope with the situation if more bird flu patients emerged.
Most human bird flu infections are due to handling birds sick with the virus or contact with their droppings. Cooked meat is not a known source of infection.
The latest H5N1 outbreak first surfaced in Asia in late 2003. Since then, 62 people have died in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia and the virus has spread to Europe's eastern border.
Meanwhile, poultry sales in Beijing and Shanghai have plummeted by up to 80 percent amid rising anxiety after three bird flu outbreaks among Chinese flocks, a newspaper reported yesterday.
The government has tried to reassure the Chinese public that it can stop the disease. China has reported no human cases, but health officials warned on Friday that one was inevitable unless China prevented future outbreaks in birds.
At the Guantang market, the biggest wholesale poultry market in Shanghai, the country's biggest city, sales have fallen by 80 percent, the China Daily newspaper said.
"The price for a home-raised chicken has halved to less than 10 yuan [US$1.20] per kilogram," the market's general manager, Wang Baorong, was quoted as saying.